Will he stay or will he go from the Cavaliers? As always, James will choose on his own terms.
On a hot July night in 2010, ESPN produced a made-for-cable extravaganza about the most magnificent mega-NBA star on the free-agent market and named it “The Decision.”
Why “The Decision,” capital T, capital D? Because LeBron James would be making one before the show was over. In retrospect, there really should have been an exclamation point added.
Anyway, the gala was held at the Greenwich Boys & Girls Club in Connecticut, a strange but somehow appropriate place for what was being announced because of the similarity between the average income of the denizens of the tony town in comparison what James had and would soon be earning.
If you were there, you would have seen ESPN’s Jim Grey sitting in a captain’s chair across from the man of the moment, who was wearing a checkered purple shirt and sitting in his own captain’s chair.
In camera view that night, located in the back of the room behind James’ left shoulder, was a refrigerator cooler filled with sports drinks.
It was ridiculously corny television, shield-your-eyes embarrassingly bad. But there was more.
In a hushed, almost sympathetic tone, Grey asked James, who had just completed his seventh season with him hometown Cleveland Cavaliers without a championship, if he had come to a decision about where he would play the 2010-11 season and beyond.
The nation leaned in to hear.
“I am taking my talents to South Beach,” said James.
The audience gasped.
Really, it all made you want to puke.
But James was off to play for the Miami Heat, where he would win three league MVPs and consecutive league championships (2012-13) in the company of Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade.
When James decided to return to Cleveland for the 2014-15 season, he announced his verdict on Bleacher Report’s video platform, Uninterrupted, sitting at a desk in a darkened room, signing his new deal.
And you remember what happened there in 2016? The Cavs won their first-ever NBA championship, the first title of any kind in Cleveland since 1964. Hurray! Long live The King.
Of course, there is a reason for this regurgitation of history. After eight straight trips to the NBA Finals with the Heat and the Cavs, James, for third time in his career, is again at the tipping point as a potential unrestricted free agent.
Where James in headed this time is another secret. In 2016, he signed a three-year extension with the Cavs for $100 million. He made $31 million in 2016-17 and $33 million last season.
But now James, who has already made $234 million in his first 15 seasons, has the option of getting out of the final year of his deal or simply take the $35.6 million the Cavs would pay him. He has until June 29 to decide, with free agency beginning on July 1.
James dropped a hint about his point of view recently to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com.
“I want to kind of try to break the mold just for the next generation, just take the narrative out of, ‘You’re past your prime when you hit 31,’ or ‘You’re past your prime in your 12th year in the league,’ or whatever the case may be,” said James. “Hopefully I can break the mold so when the next guy comes, he can still get $200 or $300 million and be 33 years old. I’m serious.”
If James stays with Cleveland, Vardon reports that he could get a five-year max deal at about $209 million. But there are rumors, always rumors, about interest from the Lakers, Spurs, Rockets and Sixers, among others.
The Lakers have $66 million to spend under their cap of $101 million and could conceivably reign both James and Paul George, another guy with a player option ($20.7), on his deal in Oklahoma City.
As always with James, the bottom line is that wherever he lands it will be with a cushion of cash to break his fall. Don’t cry for him, Michele Roberts (the executive director of the NBA Players Association).
And maybe this time he will make the announcement on the Home Shopping Network. Hurry, just one LeBron left!